A change, how much of a change?

How much has changed with the passing of the Queen? The honour that has been forthcoming is more than an expression of sentimentality but seems to come from the awareness of her life of service. For many reasons I am not of a royalist persuasion (and theologically believe God chose David, ‘a man after his own heart’, to end kingship… not prolong it… another post one day), but as we live in a world in which all forms of government and hierarchies are present this is not the most pressing element in my small life!

Something though has changed, beyond that of the death of a monarch. It seems significant that we have moved from male Prime Minister, who was prophesied to carry a Churchill anointing, to a female PM, who at some level is embodying what Maggie Thatcher carried; conversely we move from a female head of state to a male head of state. Signs of the pressing nature of how we respond to issues male and female / maculine and feminine.

[At one level I am troubled by prophetic words that proclaim (e.g.) ‘this new leader will carry the anointing xxx of and restore Britain to her glory…’ Troubled because they seem to be based in a belief that the future is all down to who is present in No. 10 (or the equivalent). Seems so opposite to Scripture – Luke 3, the entire thrust of Revelation (esp. ch. 5), Jesus’ words that it was the Father’s good pleasure to give the kingdom to a bunch of nobodies… etc. At another level I think there is often some revelation in the words, but the expectation that is added is skewed. I do think we had a ‘Churchill’ in No 10. Great news is he did not last very long! The expectation of restoration of ‘Great’ into ‘Britain’ was not fulfilled… and now we have a season of female strength. I believe in leadership, the issue is not leadership it is the style, and maybe a style is appropriate at one time (war – Churchill… maybe!) that is not appropriate at another. And when the season changes what has been and is desired, and desired by believers in particular, has to manifest to be finally emptied out.]

In a time of significant change there is an old ‘covering’ that is removed. Hence I do anticipate these next 7 months will open up the land to confusion, chaos and a number of backlashes.

An aside: Defender of the faith? Or…

The history of the term was that it was given to Henry VIII by the then pope (Leo X), before he abandoned the Catholic expression of faith. A tad ironic as Henry took the title with him and was no longer there to defend the Catholic faith, his marital status influencing which expression of faith he would defend. However, my objection goes a little deeper than that. The only defence for a monarch having the title can be rooted in a ‘I vote for Christendom’ perspective. So count me out on that one. I have no doubt the Queen had personal faith, and in line with Paul we should ‘wish that all (royalty and rulers) present were as he was’ (i.e. with faith in Jesus), but their task is not to ‘defend the faith’! We are to give a defence, an explanation, a witness to faith, but any legislation or force that defends the faith? No, not in my books.

If there is a title, defender of faiths, would be something I would be more comfortable with; but probably defender of freedom, of justice, of human kindness – all of that would sit better. So without disparaging the title-giving former pope, I hope there will be some shift on these issues.

Royalists (I hear there are some Christians who are in favour) and non-royalists alike, we simply need to be ready to be re-focused. Some titles might go, some will stay, but all of it is not nearly as central to how I live. I can raise my placard (what placard and in Spain!!!) and if I feel strongly enough there is public space for that, but if my objection to royalty is an objection to hierarchy, elitism and the like I should not raise any placard, not until I have dealt with the issues of the heart. If it is a time for something fresh to come forth regarding male and female, that has direct implications for me in my household.

The Gospel – all about changing the world, how can it not be when the claim is that the Imperial powers had stolen the very word? The Gospel – all about the micro of my responses.

There are some ‘tough’ election results being counted in Sweden and whatever the outcome the far-right xenophobic party with neo-nazi roots will have made major gains. Painful. And very painful to Maria and Bjorn who have stood with, created jobs for, challenged the powers, with regard to those driven from their nations and ended in Sweden (the sentence does not begin to tell the journey). What does it mean for those that they love, those that they have taken into their household / family? That is a very real issue. If the woman who threw in her two coins brought down a most luxurious Temple (a Temple that occupied around 25% of Jerusalem, that was spoken of in Rome as a building that just has to be seen), then I know that Bjorn and Maria have continually put 2 coins into the system that ‘robs widows of their houses’. The election is painful. Faithfulness is what catches the eye of God. (Even the disciples were focused on the incredible building – has nothing changed? Jesus meanwhile saw the widow.)

There are huge changes I believe that are here. They will unfold.

Now… the masculine and feminine

Imperial –> Colonialism

In the early 2000’s in the European context the whole understanding of Imperial power and the need to do something about the historic Roman expression of it became clear. This understanding seemed to come to a number of people independently in the same season. A significant response to this was when Steve Lowton (one of my heroes) put literal legs to this with a team and they walked from Whitby (England), the place where in 664 the Synod brought the Celtic expression of church under the Roman authority, to Rome. Steve and team arrived in Rome on December 21st, 2005. Arriving on the shortest day of the year to prophetically state that across Europe the spiritual days would then begin to grow, the dark hours receding. This was the legs to what many of us had heard, ‘It is time to roll up the Roman road’. (Since then I have understood how reversals were signposted that day.)

In a nutshell Imperial power can be summed up as being present,

where there are a few who are at the top who decide the future, they offer to all who will comply benefits, but the real benefits flow back to the centre and to the top. (We could add as it develops that a claim to divine empowerment is often added.)

The critique of Revelation is clear on this modus operandi of Imperialism. 28 times the Lamb is mentioned, slain from the foundation of the world, with the 28 being a four times factor of that repetitve number in Revelation, the number 7. Slain for the world / creation (4) and the fullness (7) of life poured out. Everything given for universal benefit. A flow for the world, not a pulling of the world to a compressed centre. In contrast John watches the ships from his viewpoint on Patmos on the way to Rome (the centre) with all the cargoes headed that way, taken from the edges of the empire to the centre; and as he lists the cargoes he mentions 28 different items, including human lives. The contrast is explicit. A human life for the world. Life outpoured. Life to the edges so that there is no temple any more… Or, lives taken and brought captive to the centre. One throne of power that controls; the other from which, through self-sacrifice comes the unlocking of human destiny.

That Imperial spirit has run amok down the centuries, continues today at the macro level (with each manifestation eating the previous one, hence China had to move to a form of capitalism in order to eat the current order… that meal is continuing), and at the micro level with the power plays that enter human relationships.

Indigineous peoples

The restoration of indigineous first nations’ people is part of what has and is taking place, and there can be no rest in the land until there is some measure of movement in that. Colonialism has to be reversed.

In a call yesterday, I suggested that if colonialism and the big brother, Imperialism, is to be reversed that it will provoke and lead to a journey behind that. Nations, divisions and hence conquest and changing of boundaries stem from Genesis 10 / 11 so we have to go earlier in that first book and come to origins, the corporate element of humanity in the image of God – male and female. Masculinity and femininity (not simply the same as male and female), how men and women relate together, is a journey that is becoming centre-focus.

A few asides…

The push for the restoration of men can be understood as a move in the right direction, but if it is to bring them to express themselves in a macho fashion we are only compounding the issue. The restoration of women also is needed… indeed what we need is the restoration of humanity. I do not see defined, prescribed roles for male / female, and in the mammoth book ‘Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood’ apart from the (listen, dear reader, these posts are ‘perspectives’… although tempted to put a sub heading there ‘also known as the truth’!!!!!!) bizarre comments such as a man driving a bus and a woman will do it differently, one exercising leadership… really!! Yes, unconvicing, but what was really unconvincing was that I could not find one reference or discussion to new humanity in Christ where there is no ‘male and female’. Humanity in creation was ‘male and female’ – which can also be understood as a merism, a spectrum; but in new creation that is not how we are defined. Not surprising if we no longer categorise people according to the flesh. (Sexual attraction and appropriateness continues, wisdom is to be exercised, but NOT male is this and female is that!)

A focus, as is present in many places (and I understand the ‘biblical’ concerns) over same-sex and / or transgender issues I cannot see as central. That is a level so far different to the fundamental one that I see coming central stage – that of masculinity and femininity. When there is a shaking we can leap on to something that we think is the issue and miss the deeper issue.

Perhaps Paul in 1 Cor. 11 is writing at diverse levels which seems his way, particularly when he is quoting others. (I am referring to the Scripture on ‘headcovering’.) It is difficult to wade through with the ancient style of quoting an opponent and then refuting it. Are the statements reflections of what he believes, or are they statements that he is refuting. I consider that perhaps (probably) Paul is making a bit of a feminist comment regarding new humanity when he says:

For just as woman [Eve] came from man [Adam: creation], so man [Jesus] comes through woman [new humanity]; but all things come from God.

(My additions in brackets, suggesting Paul playing with another level of understanding).

I think he is probably humorously throwing out… ‘be careful for if you push this along the lines you want to I will push for a feminised new humanity! You want to argue that maleness defines us and roles, well Jesus was born through a woman without the aid of a man so I suggest you back down with your argument.’

A growing focus

If we are seeing a reversal of Imperialism, if colonialism is being repented off (and that starts with a ‘re-thinking’) we now should expect a huge focus to come in to the frame.

Many weeks ago just as the game began to see who would replace Boris as PM in the UK as I got set in the morning I heard ‘it will be a woman’. Within hours we were on a Zoom call to Singapore. A pastor there said ‘it will be the person running third and a woman.’ As the contenders were subsequently whittled down, Liz Truss was in third position. She is now the PM. (I do have my biases, I try not to be left or right in my public statements but of course am biased) Boris was prophesied as being a new Churchill, Liz Truss who might be wonderful person, and certainly will have qualities that I don’t have, is a new Maggie. Those expressions of the masculine and the feminine have to be brought to the surface. They are part of history, but not part of the future. And, for me on the pulling down of statues (woke), it is not so much about destroying history as declaring what future do we want. (OK a bias crept out there.)

[Just after I finished writing this post the news came through of the Queen’s passing… I am not a royalist, but honour her life of dedicated service. We have a changing of the guards, and a shift in monarchy of female to male, with one of the last tasks she performed was to verify the shift at government level from male to female with the appointment of Liz Truss. We also have just entered a phase where some kind of covering has been removed from the UK. Visible confusion and conflict will be part of this next phase.]

Many moons ago, mid 80s, I declared in Stockholm that ‘Communism was over and that the Lord was now showing us that Islam was to be the next field’. I have come to understand that something being over does not mean it has disappeared without a trace… in the same way Imperialism and colonialism have not disappeared without trace, but they are over. The next field is the male / female the masculine / feminine.

I don’t know what that means, but for sure when the heavens shake, the prophets hear, but normally the first words spoken are childish words. Don’t listen too closely, let the speech develop. The prophets might shout ‘wrecking ball’ over someone… but the sentence is incomplete. Wrecking what and where will take time to understand. Thus we also need to wait and see what the developed sentences have to say.

Interview on prophecy / the prophetic

Mark Gamblin interviewed me a few weeks back to comment on, give perspectives on and generally reflect on the prophetic. A very generous interview and is about 45 minutes long. Yes I am sitting on the bed. No I am not asleep… I was not coming out of a siesta nor about to go into one… the internet enters by the side of the bed – hey that’s my excuse!

Roe v Wade: all simple?

Roe v Wade – so many rejoicing… and personally knowing some of those who have prayed over years it must be amazing. On this site many of you will have met Michele Perry, a friend of Gayle and mine for years. We first met the end of 2011 in Cádiz when she came to stay with us, five flights later we met her in Jerez airport. In those days we had no car and so had to run to catch the train… running… I had asked Michele ‘how will we recognise you in the airport?’ She laughed, ‘I think I will be the only woman of 4’6″ with one leg in the airport’. True to her word she was, and then we ran for the train, followed by an all but 2km walk back along cobble streets in the wet.

That is a small insight into her bravery. Before coming to us, she lived in a literal war zone, pioneering mission work in South Sudan. Brave is an understatement… and other understatements are ‘sharp’ and ‘always willing to pioneer’.

She is ‘pro-life’. Please read her article in response to Roe v Wade being overturned. Here is simply one quote:

I came to see the Pro-Life Movement in the United States wasn’t about the preservation of life as I once thought. It was about preserving political power

What a complex world we live in. Michele said to me ‘I will probably get in trouble for what I have written’. Well that won’t be the last time for sure.

Sight will clarify

There is a pattern in the earlier chapters of the book of Revelation that is about ‘hearing’ being clarified by ‘sight’. The latter chapters are sight, sight, sight… and not a few strange sights at that: apocalyptic literature in its fullness!

Here are some examples in the early chapters:

  • 1:10 I heard voice like a trumpet…
    1:12 I turned to see (saw lampstands) then came clear one standing in the midst of the lampstands
  • 4:1 heard a voice…
    4:1 come up here and I will show you… then description of sight 5:1 saw, 5:5 saw, 5:11 Looked, 6:1 saw
  • 6:1 heard leads to 6:2 looked, followed by that pattern being repeated
  • 7:4 I heard… leads to 7:9 After this I looked

And in the midst of the Rev. 5 passage, John hears a well known Scriptural image – the Lion of the Tribe of Judah… he turns and he sees a Lamb slain.

The last example is very key. Scriptural imagery that we can recite, but greatly re-interpreted. Without that re-interpretation it is not possible to ‘see’ the book of Revelation, those chapters and that sight re-shaping what was understood being so central.

At a wider level, we hear so much, we can repeat so much that we have heard, we rely on what we have heard / been taught. The hearing interprets what we see. But Revelation has a significant pattern of what we see interpreting what we have heard. This can be at a transcendent level. We receive revelation that challenges the past; or at an imminent level and what we see does not fit what we have heard.

Sight might come in an instant, or it might come in stages (John – lampstands –> one walking in the midst of the lampstands)… or it might come as we persist and refuse to let go of the dissonance between what we have heard and what we see.

Fresh sight is to break. That was one of the emphases that John Robinson had about our understanding of Scriture. (Robinson was the ‘pastor’ to the pilgrims who travelled to the Americas).

I am verily persuaded the Lord hath more truth yet to break forth out of His Holy Word.

I wrote to someone this morning after he sent me an article on Artificial Intelligence. OH my are we challenged, and what will the future hold, and what about my book Humanising the Divine?! We have also had some correspondence regarding those who are holding to the same line as the Reformers on virtually every approach (cross, predestination, election, hell etc.). They might be right (did I write that? Surely not!) but an insistence on that momentous era of the Reformation being the, more or less, end of our understanding is troublesome. We are so clearly at the end of an era… The biggest financial crisis is on us, food crises, fossil fuels, climate etc. Could we simply be at an end, or could we be at the beginning?

I don’t know how we respond to the AI direction. All accept a chip and become super-human? Resist it and find that we repeat the errors of how progress has been resisted in the past? Yes there is Babylon / Babel in there, but wonderfully we know that Babylon is never a finished work.

In it all, I have no idea how we respond… but surely there are aspects in this new time that we as believers can press into. Jesus at the centre, but maybe what he is bringing will have a surprise or three. I am thankful (yes, even for so much of the Reformation, and for the early church writers) for the past… but there is a new era here.

Never came to pass

Now that is embarrassing

Getting it wrong can happen for some of the reasons I have flagged up for example, projectionism (if I were God I would say…), this is what I want to happen, prophesying from one own’s bias etc. In this post I am going to look at a final area one that I have no category for!

I owe these examples to John Goldingay in his Old Testament Theology.

Jeremiah says that Jehoiakim would die without honour, with his body dragged around and thrown outside the city gates, and then no descendent would sit on his throne (Jer. 22:18-19; 36:30). BUT… he received a propher burial and his son succeeded him (2 Kings 24:6).

I do like Jeremiah – I read a few days ago when he said ‘Ok I know you do all things well, but if I could just talk to you I do have a complaint about what you do and how you do it (my paraphrase). And Jeremiah prophesied to Zedekiah that he would not die by the sword but peacefully with people mourning for him (Jer. 34:4-5). Continue reading and Zedekiah is captured, has his eyes pulled out and then dies in prison. A fulfilment?

In Ezekiel chapters 26-28 we have the prophecy that Nebuchadnezzar (Babylon) will defeat Tyre, kill its inhabitants, plunder the wealth and bring the walls down flat. Indeed the text suggests that Tyre will disappear and never be found again. In due course Nebuchadnezzar did come against the city, but the effect was nothing like was prophesied (a few hundred years later one might be able to suggest that Alexander the Great came close to fulfilling that). What is also interesting is that it seems that there is a further word to Nebuchadnezzar along the lines of – well that did not work out but you will attack Egypt (Ezek. 29:17-20)… that one did not work out either!

OUCH!!!

I have no idea what category to put those in, and these are not some prophecies on some super powerful internet web site, but inside the covers of our Bible. Maybe there was some repentance that went on that changed things? Maybe there is far more human interaction that affects the outcome than a simple ‘God said’ factor?

Mistakes are to be avoided. Mistakes that flow from our spiritual defects are likely, or very likely if we do not approach things humbly with the only focus of expressing God’s care and love. And when all is said and done and we enter the realm of the Jeremiah’s and Ezekiel’s of the prophetic world we will have to be able to live with ‘can’t explain that… and yes it is embarrassing!’ One thing is for sure we can never close the door to being criticised.

[Footnote. A view that has become widespread (and popular in charismatic circles) that sems to originate from the work of Wayne Grudem is that the Old Testament prophets spoke the ‘very words of God’, the NT prophets did not, but the apostles did indeed speak such words does not seem to be sustainable in the light of the above non-fulfilments. I actually consider that the belief is probably more motivated to uphold a view of Scripture that is tied to a belief in inerrancy. I remember in my days from long ago sitting listening to lectures on the NT by Dr. Donald Guthrie where he sought to prove at lengths that each of the NT books were ‘apostolic’, written by, or for, or at least under the clear and direct influence of one of those original apostles. I have never understood why we try to put on the Bible what it does not seem to claim for itself. What a book we have… and I think if we let it be what it is we will be pointed to Jesus while responding to the internal invite to disagree with some of what we read. Come on, reader, do you agree with all you read there? Really?]

Not fulfilled – not contending

Prophecy… prohesy in part… prophecy not inevitable… prophecy not future-telling… prophecy inhabits the world of promise.

Promises. That is the world of the bible, and of course being that I lean heavily into the ‘future is not fixed’ promise is just a wonderful category. What mght be? Oh careful you might get into the realm of imagination… yes and then I might just connect with the God who answers above what we think or imagine.

And…

Then contend for fulfilment.

Elisha was suffering from a sickness. Later he would die from it. Jehoash, the king of Israel, went down to see him. He sobbed over him. “My father!” he cried. “You are like a father to me! You are the true chariots and horsemen of Israel!”
Elisha said to Jehoash, “Get a bow and some arrows.” So he did.
“Hold the bow in your hands,” Elisha said to the king of Israel. So Jehoash took hold of the bow. Then Elisha put his hands on the king’s hands.
“Open the east window,” Elisha said. So he did. “Shoot!” Elisha said. So he shot.
“That’s the Lord’s arrow!” Elisha announced. “It means you will win the battle over Aram! You will completely destroy the men of Aram at Aphek.” (2 Kings 13:14-19).

Good word Elisha! Now Jehoash pick up the arrows and strike the ground. ‘Not enough, I will have to change the word I gave you… no longer completely’, but

But now you will win only three battles over them.

Repentance can change the outcome (Jonah); lack of persistence can change the outcome; expectations / fantasy can change the outcome / making ‘part’ the whole can change the outcome; adding the next word to the others we have received in some sort of collection can change the outcome.

I have benefitted from prophecy, am thankful for responses to prophetic words I have given… but am so aware that for many reasons we might not fully benefit from what has been said.

I will prophesy what I want to happen

Well wishing?

I need this to happen in my life, and lo and behold along comes someone who confirms it with a word. That really can and does happen, but when we are not yielded and we connect with someone who prophesies from their own desires we can end up with a toxic situation. Ezekiel covers this when he talks about prophets being enticed to prophesy what we want to hear. God allows it, but then says he will truly give such people (and with a focus on the prophet) a clip round the ear (or as my mother would put it – a cloot aboot the lug).

When Sue was ill with cancer, Sharon Stone came to me and said – now be aware that you will likely receive many words… but mature prophets know that this is a time when little is said but that prayer is the place. Thankfully I did not receive many words, most words that we received are still alive today; one word was ‘Martin in your book (can’t remember which title) there is an error… This is the reason Sue is ill, re-read it prayerfully and then repent, call me and Sue will be healed!’ To say hilarious is an understatement. One error?!!!!! Give me a break. That word had no traction, maybe if they had said ‘320 errors’ I might have had to take notice.

When faced with situations that we want to change we cannot prophesy what we want to happen. The common ones are: marriages, partners, babies being born, health etc. All of these can be prophesied into but not from this is what I want to happen, so I will speak that out.

Only a part

We prophesy in part

How clever we are! If that is our starting point we have a lot to learn, and that path has to lead to ‘we are not so smart’. All prophecy is in part, the whole picture is never revealed. One can have increible revelation – look at Elisha and how he knew where the opposing army would be, so much so that the king was frustrated and was told that ‘Elisha knows what is going on behind closed doors’. Yet when the woman whose son had died came to him in great distress, he told his servant to go with her as he did not have a clue what had happened! I respect that enormously, the honesty (I know nothing) and the revelation (I know what is going on in secret) are probably related.

On the receiving end of things, no word will reveal all. I value, Paul valued, and above all God values prophecy, but we must never anticipate that ‘if only we receive a word from God through prophecy’ all will be clear. By all means pray that God will speak and show the way, but s/he might show that path could be in a variety of ways; prophecy might be one such way that helps.

We weigh prophecy. Yes – of God / missed the mark is one aspect; but also weighing it. What ‘part’ does that word play; how does it fit with what else I have received. Like a recipe – 200gms of this and 300gms of that plus… We weigh the ingredients; we weight all prophecy as part of the bigger recipe.

A second aspect of ‘only a part’ is that once we prophesy into a situation it is normal that we can only speak to a part. It is not the whole story (and I am particularly thinking of words that might be for a whole situation, nation, or season). The part we have not been able to get words for should provoke us to prayer. Gayle and I have some words (not directly for us) that we read to dig into, they give insight into the situation(s) but what is not said there, what is ‘between the lines’ is left there for us to wrestle with. The prophetic might throw light on those parts but those aspects are not actually in black and white in the text. There is so much more… Prophecy can open the door to a measure of understanding but prayer and yielding to God is going to bring something deeper. It is not knowledge alone that brings change, nor revelation alone, but co-operation with God (and I could add it is not God alone who brings changes).

God speaks when s/he is also silent. The sheer sound of silence – Elijah’s experience.

I am glad prophecy is God speaking. I am glad that God speaking is more than prophecy.

Not what I want to say

We all know so much, all based on what we are doing is the right thing to do, we after all are the ones who hear God and are in the centre of the will of heaven. That’s a great starting point – NOT.

It’s all very well to say ‘If I were you I would not be doing that’, or ‘no way would I feel free to do that’. If I take the illustration I used yesterday of the incumbent in the Vatican (BTW I have not had personal permission to use this as an illustration, but I don’t think he would mind) I certainly have my reservations about the position and the organisation. Do I believe Jesus intended us to have a pope when he said ‘and on this rock I will build my church’? No, I do not. Do I think Jesus intended (the perfect will of God) that Martin should do what he is doing? Of course, cos I am right, that much is obvious… or not!

Let’s start with we are all doing approximately what God intends, some approximations are closer to what God would do if s/he were us than others (and he became one of us)… but all are approximations. God speaks to US. Not to an ideal us (far too Platonic for an Incarnational, kenotic God). Hence prophecy is and always will be ‘in part’. God speaks to Martin with all his weaknesses, ideosyncracies and tendency just to do whatever he thinks anyway. So prophecy will not give me ‘the word of the Lord’ but will give me ‘the Lord’s voice to me’.

I find prophesying over people who are doing things, involved in situations that I (in all my self-righteous pontificating knowledge) would not touch with a barge pole a challenge. God does not touch things with a barge pole either, but with her/his own hands and heart. Do not, do not, ask for a king… OK you have asked for a king, bring him here and I personally will anoint the king.

The anointing, empowerment of God. So sweet, and gives me hope. The Holy Spirit might be given to those who are obedient, but that obedience is relative; it is obedience as I understand it. Let’s drop the absoluteness of ‘we are right’ and get involved in living for / with Jesus. As I wrote yesterday it might be that I don’t walk with Jesus, but given that he walks with me that is probably enough – we walk together.

To grow in the prophetic one has to learn, at times, to speak what one would rather not say. It is seeking to speak what God seeks to say to the person / situation where they are at, regardless of what I think about barge poles. So thankful that is the case. If we can’t get to that stage we will either end up arrogant (not good, there is not too much else in Scripture that ‘God opposes’) or continually questioning if God is with us (what we sow we reap… if we sow barge poles we will reap barge poles).

Generosity, encouraging, PRESENCE. Hence God speaks in part, with an overriding ‘Go for it’.

Perspectives